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FORTY-THREE people received awards from Governor-General Dame PearletteLouisy last Sunday in respect of the Order of Saint Lucia and the Public Services Long Service Awards.
During the three-hour-long investiture ceremony held at Government House, the recipients were recognized for their outstanding contributions to Saint Lucian society in various spheres, including politics, health, arts and culture, journalism, child advocacy, acts of bravery, education, sports and music.
Nobel Prize-winning poet, Derek Walcott, received a knighthood. So, too, did former Prime Minister, Dr. Vaughan Lewis. Educator/cultural enthusiast, Lawrence Laurent, was conferred with the title of Dame. These three awards were the first to be given out under the Knight/Dame Commander of the Order of Saint Lucia.
Harold Simmons was awarded the Saint Lucia Cross 50 years after his death. Regarded as “the father of modern Saint Lucian arts and culture”, Simmons, who died in 1966 at age 51, was a mentor to generations of young Saint Lucian writers, artists and historians, including Sir Sirs Derek Walcott and Dunstan St. Omer. His daughter, Joycelyn Edward, accepted the award on his behalf.
Saint Lucia’s most-decorated athlete, Levern Spencer, was awarded the Saint Lucia Medal of Merit (Gold) for her outstanding contribution to sports. Spencer’s high jumping achievements include 11 gold, 3 silver and 7 bronze medals in major competitions, including gold at the Pan Am Games last year as well as bronze at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Four people received the Saint Lucia Medal of Honour (Gold) for an act of conspicuous courage in circumstances of peril. They are Zacheus Dominique, siblings Kudisha and Kerwin Francis, and Haggeus Carlton Ochilly. Rickie Reynald received the Saint Lucia Medal of Honour (Silver) for an act of bravery in hazardous circumstances.
Other awardees on the day included journalist Earl Bousquet, paediatrician Dr. Jacqueline Bird-Compton, trade unionist Lawrence Poyotte, poet/economist Adrian Augier, engineer Bernard Theobalds, musician/humanitarian Taj Weekes, social worker Carolyn Archibald, community activist Dahlia Francois, cadet Lawrence James, Glenda Polius, Mary St. Hill, Supt. Augustin Sampson, Lucretia Alexander and Bernard Prospere.
Chairperson of the National Awards Committee, June King-Frederick, said her seven-member committee has over the past two years made a valiant effort to ensure that Saint Lucians understand the significance of the awards and their crucial role in nominating worthy Saint Lucians for recognition.
King-Frederick said the committee received 116 nominations last year compared to 23 the previous year. Nevertheless, she said, much work needs to be done in the area of justification for the nominations. She also expressed gratitude to the awardees.
“You have given the young people something to emulate,” King Frederick said. “Now we must ensure that they are part of the process. Thank you for your service.”